Nintendo Switch has awoken!
On the off-chance you're one of the few people who has not played Terraria at some point in the eight years since its release (and there are not many of you left) then you may be pleased to know that you can now play it on Nintendo Switch. This is, of course, in addition to already being able to play it on more than 10 other platforms.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Terraria is a Metroidvania where you start off with little more than a pickaxe and the clothes on your back in a strange and colorful 2D procedurally-generated world. There is nothing to guide you except a friendly NPC named, aptly enough, “The Guide” - though players who are less patient may resort to using their PC or smartphone to access the Terraria Wiki. You will likely spend the first few in-game days bumbling around, getting used to the controls, dying to zombies and fall-damage, and collecting scores of items that you are not sure what to do with. That's where The Guide comes in. Showing an item to him allows you to see all the crafting recipes it is used in. If you show him an iron bar, you might see that it can make a sword or armor like you would expect — but you will also notice that it is required for making a flamethrower. And at that point you are wondering just how to obtain the other ingredients to build one so you can lay waste to the pixelated countryside and get revenge on the zombies who have been killing you each night.
The basic gameplay loop in Terraria consists of collecting items like mushrooms and copper ore, and then using those items to forge equipment like potions and armor. These allow you to defeat stronger monsters and gather more powerful materials so you can explore more of the world and fight stronger monsters and get better items that allow you to fight even stronger monsters and — you get the idea. This concept is not new, but what makes Terraria so enjoyable is that it has its own lore and internal logic that makes finding new items and seeing how the world reacts to your presence an exhilarating experience.
One tooltip I saw during the initial loading screen goaded me by saying, "Defeat the boss in The Underworld to change the World forever." Now, if I did not already have hundreds of hours clocked in the Steam version of Terraria, this might seem more mysterious to me. But to a new player (as some who play Terraria on the Switch will no doubt be) — this is a cryptic dare that provides the player with a tangible goal in an otherwise fairly goal-less game.
I say "goal-less," but what I really mean is that goals are player driven. If you like to build, then build. If you like to fight monsters, then fight monsters. The game finds ways to reward you regardless of what you choose to do. Builders will find new NPCs to move in to the towns they construct. Fighters will be challenged by ever more powerful creatures. But to truly experience everything Terraria has to offer, you will need to pursue each pillar of its gameplay. There's also a whole world to explore, and fish to catch, and items to collect, and so on.
What really takes all this to the next level — and makes Terraria one of my favorite games of all time — is when you play with multiple people. By inviting players to your in-game world, they can build their own home and set it as their spawn point. You can work together to build a mega-structure, or take on a super-boss. Or you can just fish for hours while virtually hanging out. This game is really all about what you make of it.
Even after you defeat the hardest boss, get endgame gear and build a floating castle out of solid gold bricks, there's still more to the game. Though the game does not have a rigid class system like many RPGs, it does allow you to specialize your gear into one of several archetypes (melee, ranged, magic, summoner, etc.) and it can be difficult to appreciate them all within a single playthrough.
Ultimately, Terraria on Switch is a boon to anyone who has not had a chance to play portable Terraria yet. The only catch (and this affected me greatly) is that those of us who are used to mouse and keyboard controls may have a hard time adjusting to the Switch button layout and may feel like the control scheme is somewhat clunky. I will admit something that took me a fraction of a second on the Steam version — dumping duplicate items into multiple nearby chests for storage — took several minutes on the Switch version. Instead of simply opening my inventory and clicking "Quick Stack to nearby Chests,” I had to open each chest, then use the d-pad to tab all the way over to the option to insert my items. This is, of course, easier in handheld mode thanks to the touchscreen. I believe 505 Games did an excellent job porting Terraria to the Switch and made the most of the buttons, triggers, and joysticks at their disposal. but after so many hours of playing with mouse and keyboard, it is hard to adjust. Though, being able to play Terraria from the comfort of my bed may be worth the effort.